IT Resume Makeover: Emphasize Your 'X Factor'
After a 17-year climb through the IT ranks at a major financial firm, this month’s resume makeover candidate found herself unemployed and with a mundane resume. Here's how expert Donald Burns uncovered her 'wow factor.'
Tatiana Shevchuk spent 17 years climbing the IT ladder at a major financial institution. When her position was eliminated, she was confident that her resume, packed with a long list of achievements and successes, would quickly land her a new job at the IT manager level or above. But as the weeks went by responses were few and far between.
She thought she knew the reason for her lack of responses. "My resume was simply plain. There was no "wow" factor, even when I read it. After 17 years with the same company, I got buried under outlining my responsibilities and accomplishments, and I could tell there was something I wasn't describing, but I didn't know what it was," Shevchuk says.
What was missing? It's what career coach, resume writer, job search expert and founder ofExecutive Promotions, LLC Donald Burns calls the "X-Factor" -- that combination of passion, personality and confidence that sets one candidate apart from others.
Find the X-Factor
"A winning resume has an 'X-Factor' that allows a candidate's confidence, personality and passion to shine through. Tatiana's original resume looked typical and, to be honest, boring. There wasn't any palpable energy, no passion, no pulse that would spark readers to bring her in for an in-person conversation," Burns says.
During his phone consultation with Shevchuk, Burns found she had these qualities in spades, and set to work to make her energy, passion and personality shine through in her resume. "Looking at the new resume, the blue text is especially important because it injects some energy and passion into Tatiana's resume," Burns says.
"For example, we worded it to say, 'I grew my technical and leadership skills alongside the 30x growth of Wells Fargo Capital Finance ...' to highlight her progression and accomplishments. Also, the blue text summarizes her true role as the CIO's deputy and 'right hand' who, for 17 years, co-built the IT department from scratch. And as a bonus, the blue text works perfectly as a lead-in to Tatiana's LinkedIn profile summary," Burns says.
Overcoming a Fatal Objection
Burns also restructured Shevchuk's long tenure so it presented as a strategic progression with increasing responsibilities and less of a 17-year data dump. Without isolating each promotion and advancement her old resume sent up red flags for recruiters and hiring managers. Her original resume lacked an overarching theme; while she listed many separate job activities and descriptions, there wasn't a unifying factor to tie these all together.
"For someone like Tatiana who held varying positions at just one company, there's a very good chance of a resume appearing to be just one very long data dump. This could be a fatal objection for recruiters, who might simply see an unstructured career that signaled she stayed at one company for way too long without progressing," says Burns.
Burns went to work to eliminate this flaw by breaking her experience into two sections. "On the first page, we started with this big, unifying headline: 'Co-led the continual scale-up of WFCF's infrastructure during 1997-2014,'" says Burns.
This headline pulls Tatiana's 17 years of experience into a single focus while eliminating the perception that she'd stayed stagnant at the company.
Then, on page 2, after the timeline, he more clearly illustrated that Tatiana was not performing the same job for 17 years. He broke down her experience into functional areas like management scope, mentoring, etc. to explicitly address the cliché objection that she worked there too long, and did not have enough exposure to different experience.
Show Clear Structure and Progression
Burns also noted that Shevchuk's resume was so dense with detail that it was difficult to read and absorb each of her myriad of responsibilities -- much like looking at a jigsaw puzzle haphazardly dumped from the box.
"In the middle of the first page, for instance, Tatiana had 16 consecutive bullet points. Nobody would make it past the first four; it's just too dense and difficult to read. I call this the 'jigsaw puzzle' problem, where candidates list a number of disconnected pieces instead of assembling them into a complete picture," Burns says.
At the same time, some of Shevchuk's most impressive accomplishments were either buried or weren't mentioned at all, including an "industry first" fraud-detection system and a "personal budget planner" she developed that was eventually sold by the financial institution on 72 countries.
Highlighting the 'Wow' Factor
"During our conversations, I was surprised by how Donald was able to hone in precisely on who I am as a person and as an IT professional," says Shevchuk. "He listened carefully to my entire professional history and was able to pinpoint areas I hadn't considered were important that made a huge difference," she says.
Shevchuk's new resume is much easier for recruiters and hiring managers to "digest" at first glance, says Burns. Breaking down the text into bite-sized chunks and including no more than four sequential bullets -- before switching to text or a new subheading -- makes it easier to read, says Burns.
"You'll notice that no element, whether bullets, sentences or paragraphs is repeated more than three times, even the major career highlights. We added three claims at the top of resume to cover the absolutely critical aspects of Tatiana's career: 'Deep knowledge of ...'; 'Expert at introduction of Agile ...'; and '... created the mortgage industry's first fraud-detection system ...'," says Burns.
Now, instead of feeling generic and bland, Shevchuk's X-Factor is front and center of her new resume, with the most important, eye-catching information right on the first page.
"The format of my new resume makes me think, 'Wow'! I was surprised how Donald paid such close attention to all the details, but was then able to distill those into just a few very powerful statements. With this new, extraordinary resume, I'm sure I will get noticed and be invited to interview for my dream job," says Shevchuk.